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Restorations in Boston Offer Rewarding Results

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

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Ron Peik, like many who work in the realm of paint removal, seems to specialize in tedium.

His company, Alpine Environmental, began with a focus in the painstaking task of lead abatement and eventually found its way into meticulous period restoration, both a good fit for its Boston location.

Images courtesy of Alpine Environmental

Alpine Environmental began with a focus in the painstaking task of lead abatement and eventually found its way into meticulous period restoration, both a good fit for its Boston location.

“We sort of backed our way into the period restoration world,” Peik told Durability + Design News over the phone. “We realized we were pretty good at taking the stuff off, so we do both.”

The New England company deals with a range of old buildings that owners want restored to their original luster.

Early 1900s Victorian homes fill out the main portion of work, Greek revivals are sprinkled in and 1800s (and some 1700s) antique colonials pop up more once crews get outside the city.

“Out in the suburbs, in the more rural areas, we’re winding up with 1800s colonials—and a ton of minutemen houses,” Peik said. “That’s the real cool stuff.”

With a quick reference to the colonists who organized a self-trained militia for the Revolutionary War, Peik went into a restoration story he’s particularly proud of: the house of Colonel James Barrett.

Peik and his crew were hired to restore the house owned by the leader of the Concord Militia, whose house British Troops once searched. A house that was built in 1705.

Peik and his crew were hired to restore the house owned by the leader of the Concord Militia, whose house British Troops once searched. A house that was built in 1705.

“They said, ‘Remove 300 years of paint but save the original coat,’” Peik said, noting the incredulous laugh he let out when he was first given the orders.

“You can’t do that. But we did. We went outside of our comfort zone.”

Out of their comfort zones and into the spotlight, as the Barrett Farm was one of a handful of Alpine’s projects featured on the long-running television show “This Old House.”

The Barrett Farm was one of a handful of Alpine’s projects featured on the long-running television show “This Old House.”

Peik said his team went in with a wide array of options for the house—chemical stripping, heat guns, hand stripping—and testing in discreet areas to see what would work best.

They settled on heat guns.

But they couldn’t just work at their own pace until the job was done. They had to work with (and around) historians who were also called in to the famous site, and they eventually uncovered some finishes that the historians had only guessed (hoped) would be there.

“We were uncovering history and it was really an amazing moment as a contractor—like contractor nirvana,” he said.

The project, for him, was the pinnacle of historic restoration, and he said the team learned a lot from having to stop for a day and let their job site become someone else’s, become the office to people in another profession, running around a restoration site with microscopes.

They had to work with (and around) historians who were also called in to the famous site, and they eventually uncovered some finishes that the historians had only guessed (hoped) would be there.

Peik said that the job has given him and his crew the ability to speak more in depth with clients about the particulars of restoration work.

He said that no matter which facet of work his crew is tasked with—taking a heat gun to a centuries-old house or hand-scraping lead paint—his advice to people coming up in the trade is just to “do it right.”

“There are rewards to doing it right. There are clients out there who appreciate it. And the biggest thing is it’s not that hard to do it right—when you look at the big picture, it’s not that difficult.”

And, he assures the payoff.

“It is tedious. It’s very, very tedious. Tedious, but rewarding.”

   

Tagged categories: Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; Lead paint abatement; Preservation; Sanding and hand tool cleaning

Comment from Catherine Brooks of Eco-Strip, (7/13/2017, 12:09 PM)

It's great to see an abatement project from a small company Alpine Environmental using a full tool array of paint stripping methods, including the high tech infrared heat. I tried to see the video about the Barrett House project but the link didn't get me to it.


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